June 29, 2015

Why Won't Broadcasters Fight?

The great Dave Trott has distilled the essence of effective marketing strategy into two words -- predatory thinking.
"Predatory thinking is ruthless and aggressively focused on beating the competition."
Predatory thinking is not for the timid or the fearful. It is not for the fat and happy. Is not for those who have forgotten how to defend themselves.

It is not for the U.S. broadcasting industry. Our broadcasting industry refuses to fight.

In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to speak to several broadcaster groups. They are good, well-meaning people. But they don't get it.

They know they are getting their asses handed to them by the online ad industry. They know the online ad industry is very vulnerable on many fronts. But as I wrote a while back...
"(The online ad industry) have the press in their back pocket; they have ad agencies pimping for them. But broadcast(ers)... are pathetically unprepared for this fight. They haven't learned that if they don't tell their story, no one else will."
The broadcast industry is so used to printing money (in their heyday some had margins of 60% and higher!) that they seem to have decided that a permanent posture of aggrievement is a substitute for a fight. 

They are being taken to the cleaners by hyper-motivated digital evangelists who understand what predatory thinking means.

It's not as if the broadcast industry doesn't have a good story to tell, they just don't seem to know how to tell it.

It's not like they don't have the resources to tell their story, they just refuse to use them.

It's not that they don't have a killer weapon, they just don't recognize it.

It's not that the broadcast industry isn't doing a good job of implementing their strategy, they don't even have a strategy. 

The longer they allow the online ad industry to convince impressionable marketers and clueless agencies that broadcasting is dead or dying, the closer they are to enabling those fictions to become facts.

I have no dog in the fight between traditional and digital advertising. I don't care who wins or who loses.

But I bought a ticket and I want to see a good fight. All I'm seeing is one lean and hungry fighter and one overweight punching bag.

June 25, 2015

Thank God For Marketing Experts

Here at the Ketel One Conference Center of The Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters, we have finally realized that there are two kinds of marketing and advertising people in the world.

There are Experts, and there are Schmucks Like Us (SLUs).

The Experts are much more important than SLUs because Experts are not only smarter than us, they're smarter than the facts.

You see, we SLUs see a fact and we assume it means something. But the Experts see a fact and they know it means exactly the opposite.

Here's an example.

Nielsen just released its Total Audience Report for the first quarter of 2015. It shows that 96% of video viewing in the US is done on a television and 4% is done on a PC.

To Schmucks Like Us this might suggest that television is kicking the living shit out of PC viewing.

But not to Experts. Experts and their Expert friends don't need to read reports. They go to  conferences and write books and articles and they explain to each other -- and lecture to us -- that TV is dead. They're smarter than the facts.

Here's another example:
Schmucks Like Us would look at this chart and assume that because radio reaches a higher percent of Americans every week than any other medium, it must be pretty popular. Ha! Thank goodness we have experts to explain to us that radio, too, is dead.

I think it's time that Schmucks Like Us stop reading reports and relying on facts. Not if we ever expect to become experts.

(And don't forget, there's a lot more for Schmucks Like Us here.)

June 22, 2015

The Investment Idiots Of Advertising

In the world of financial investing, there are plenty of ways to be an idiot and lose boxcars full of money.

Perhaps the most obvious way is to listen to the arguments of headline grabbing financial writers. They will write very convincing articles about how you should put all your money in gold, or tech stocks, or European bond funds, or condominium developments.

Or you should take all your money out of gold, or tech stocks, or European bond funds, or condominium developments.

In a world of media overload, the only way for them to attract attention is to advocate sensational measures.

We have the same thing in the advertising and marketing world. We are deluged with books, articles, and conferences in which the most extreme assertions are the ones that grab the headlines.

We have had over a decade of extreme nonsense about the death of advertising; the death of television; the death of radio; the miracle of interactivity; the magic of social media marketing. It has all been a bunch of melodramatic bullshit.

We have been subjected to a non-stop barrage of bad marketing investment advice by people who are not smart enough to gain attention by giving sound guidance, but are just smart enough to gain attention by promulgating hysterical nonsense.

In many ways, investing in advertising is more difficult than personal investing. You can follow your personal investments on a day-to-day basis and see how they're doing.

But advertising and marketing investments are much more difficult to track. First of all, there are so many variables. Then there is the lag time.

When Pepsi launched the biggest social media marketing experiment in history -- the Pepsi Refresh Project -- it took them over a year and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue to realize what a disaster it had been.

But that's what you get when you follow the overblown rhetoric of advertising investment idiots. They trade on fear of missing out (FOMO) and they stampede naive marketers into believing their turgid narratives.

Sadly, if you're going to be an advertising or marketing "expert" you have to have something radical or extreme to say or nobody pays attention.

As we've said here many times, no one ever got famous predicting that things would stay pretty much the same.

June 18, 2015

The "No Stupider Than Any Other Father's Day Sale" Sale

I am kicking off the summer reading season with the best price of the century on the Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey ebook. For a brief time (hey, in geological terms 1,000 years is a brief time) the ebook will be available for only 99¢.

This is to encourage you to do more reading and less searching for naughty pictures of celebrities. Leave that to me.

If you need more encouragement to buy the book, remember Sunday is Father's Day. I don't know what that has to do with anything, but everyone else seems to think it's a good reason to badger you with annoying ads.

Also, let's not forget I paid good money for all these Amazon reviews...

5 Stars
Need More Bob Hoffman's!
  May 7, 2015
Years of successful experience are bound to include great stories that yield great insight. This book from Bob is full of them. I love his no-nonsense approach to business, advertising and life.
5 Stars
This will shake you out of your jargon induced comaI. Beavis, May 7, 2015
This is an excellent book that gives anyone in the business a good dose of reality. It is a quick read and Bob's writing is very entertaining. I laughed out loud quite a few times. You may not agree with everything Bob has to say but his no bulls*** message will have you questioning many of our business' perceived truths.
5 Stars
  May 14, 2015
If marketers would only listen to Bob, advertising would be good again. In a world where common sense is all too uncommon, Bob brings intelligence, wisdom and persuasion to bear. And makes the bombastic bulls*** ers look like the shams they are.
5 Stars
"I'd love to have these things printed in one place so ...
May 18, 2015
This book is a riot. By that I mean, it will make you laugh uproariously and might also lead you to punch a deserving media buyer or ad agency rep in the face. I check the Ad Contrarian blog daily and have often thought, "I'd love to have these things printed in one place so I can refer back to them." Well, here is that one place. All nice and tidy. In fact, if you have slightly larger than normal pockets, you can put this book in your pocket. I carried it around this weekend and read it during my kids' sporting events. I received strange looks as I burst into laughter at inopportune moments. I seriously want to buy Bob a beer. If you are in marketing, do your boss, your clients and yourself a favor and read this.

5 Stars
A marketer doesn't get his wings when you buy this book
  May 18, 2015
This is the best book about marketing since - ever! Funny, entertaining, and the truth. In other words, the opposite of marketing. 
5 Stars
Quit Kotler, have more sex.
May 20, 2015
I always leave my kindle lying around to impress people. So to have the latest Hoffman book at the top of my reading list, really made me look good. I not only sound smarter and handsome around women: my family and friends either wink or tap me on the back, without the need to talk about the book directly. It's that speechless acknowledgement of "yeah, we know". Co-leagues now include me in their power lunches, happy hours, and weekend golf plans, even senior management. Well, this book has been great to me. I will probably try to read a few pages soon, when all this beautiful girls stop to obsess over me.

5 Stars
Best Diet Book Ever Written.
  May 21, 2015
Buy Bob's book. Read Bob's book. Lose 10 pounds of bulls***. Immediately.
5 Stars
Can you handle the truth? Laughter makes it go down easier.
May 31, 2015
You could say this book is about how mergers and acquisitions have ruined the advertising business. Or it’s about the mass fantasy of the effectiveness of social media marketing, content marketing and online advertising. Or the utter failure of ad agencies and marketers to capitalize on the most lucrative market in the history of the world.
 For me, it’s really about the demise of critical thinking in our industry (what precious little there was to begin with).
Written by a veteran advertising writer and agency owner, this book is a smack upside the head for those who work in the business of marketing. It offers laugh-out-loud moments and refreshing common sense for fellow contrarians who don’t take themselves too seriously.
As a group, marketing people have been living in a delusional bubble, and the author is trying his level best to let some of the air out of it. Sadly, he concludes it’s not likely to happen. Because our industry already has too much money, reputation, and infrastructure invested in delusional thinking. But the good news is, this is a great opportunity for those who are perceptive enough to recognize it and brave enough to exploit it.
As the author points out, we’ve made great strides in recognizing and channeling the often illogical impulses that drive consumer purchasing. Yet within the communications industry we pretend to be personally immune from the same illogical behavior patterns. Recognizing you have a problem is the first step toward correcting it. So, with equal parts wit, sarcasm and brutal honesty, Bob suggests how we can—as he might put it—pull our heads out of our asses.
5 Stars
June 3, 2015
5 Stars
I smell a sequel
June 4, 2015
As a regular reader of Bob Hoffman's blog, The Ad Contrarian, I enjoy the comments as much as I enjoy Bob's post. Nary a column goes by that he hasn't raised the ire of the new age adverti and all their tinker bell fairy dust social media bs. Love the book and looking forward to the sequel.

 If you've gotten this far,  you really ought to buy the damn thing.

June 16, 2015

The 25 Billion Dollar Delusion

How can it be that $25 billion in media billings has gone into review this year? It is astounding and unprecedented. But I have a theory...

What if there was a new type of gasoline? And what if this gasoline suddenly allowed a car to go 70 miles per gallon instead of 26 miles per gallon?

Everyone would want to try this gasoline.

But what if, when people tried it, their cars still got 26 mpg, or even worse, they went down to 24 mpg?

What would people do?

I think I know what they'd do. They'd assume there was something wrong with the variant of the miraculous new gasoline they were getting at their gas station, and they'd try a new gas station to get the proper version of the new gas.

But what if the new gas was not a miracle at all? What if all the talk was wrong and the gas was not only not magic, it was actually no better or even worse than the old-fashioned gas?

I have a feeling that's what's going on in the advertising business.

Clients have been reading and hearing for years about the miracle of online advertising. But the miracle is not paying off for them. From all the idle chit-chat they hear and read, they think it's paying off for everyone but them.

"How come it's not working for us?"

"We need to find a new gas station and get the proper version of this gasoline."

And, just maybe, that's how we wind up with an astonishing $25 billion in media billings currently in review.

June 15, 2015

What's The Value Of Creativity?

According to reports in the press, at least $25 billion in media spending has gone into review so far this year.

This is a staggeringly large number.

This seems to me to be quantitative evidence of the continued imprudent emphasis that advertisers are putting on the delivery system (media) at the expense of the product (the ads.)

How much added value are you going to get by changing media agencies?  Is one agency going to buy your media 3% more efficiently? Is one agency going to charge you 4% less? Is one agency's media strategy going to be 5% more effective?

I understand that when you're spending hundreds of millions of dollars, a few percent in savings can be significant.

Meanwhile, great creative work can be 100% more effective at selling than mediocre creative work. Or 500%.

Why are we so obsessed with the delivery systems when they offer so little leverage, and so complacent with mediocrity in the product when it offers such a large upside?

The behemoths of the corporatized, consolidated advertising industry have convinced the behemoths of the corporatized, consolidated marketing industry that efficiency is more important than imagination.

This is a dreadful development in the evolution of the advertising business.

It has been creeping up on us for years. But now we have the numbers that leave no doubt about what's going on.

June 10, 2015

Advertising Is Like Golf. No, Seriously.

Golf is what you're supposed to do when you retire.

Before I retired from the agency business I was a fairly regular golfer. But because I have a compulsion to do everything backwards, since I left the agency business two years ago, I haven't played golf at all.

A few weeks ago I went on a brief vacation with my family and I decided to play.

It reminded me of something that connects golf and advertising.

Golf is an enormously silly game. When you see it on TV, or when you see people riding around in their clown cars, they look ridiculous. But ask anyone who's ever tried to play the game and you'll most likely hear this -- it is impossibly difficult.

In fact, the silliness of the practitioners masks the astounding difficulty of the endeavor.

In many ways, the same is true of advertising. A lot of advertising practitioners are ridiculous. They speak an absurd language. They have strange beliefs. They have a very high opinion of their meager accomplishments.

But that doesn't mean that what they are doing is easy. In fact, like golf, making good ads is seriously difficult.

While there are certainly some lazy people in the advertising business, most of the awful ads we see are not the result of people not trying very hard. They are the result of the extraordinary difficulty of the task.

Reminder to SF Bay Area folks: Book launch/signing party tonight in SF. Click here for details.

June 08, 2015

The Never-Ending Search For Unaccountability

The first day I stepped in an ad agency one thing became clear to me. Agencies are very sensitive about accountability.

Oh, when the product is selling like crazy, we're happy to take the credit. But when the product ain't selling, well, you see, it's a branding campaign -- it's not supposed to build sales.

Lately, the online ad industry, and in particular Facebook, has taken the accountability dodge to a new level of excellence.

First some background.

"Interactive" display advertising was first sold to us with the promise that it would be much more effective because consumers could and would, um, interact with it.

Then, when it was found that no one was interacting with "interactive" advertising (fewer than one click in a thousand) the story changed.

Online advertising success, and particularly Facebook display advertising, became about "engagement." Engagement (whatever the hell that means) replaced the invisible click as the measure of display ad effectiveness.

Well, now it turns out that not only is no one clicking on ads, no one is engaging with them either. In fact, only 7 people in 10,000 of a brand's Facebook fans ever "engage" with a post.

So what's the new cover story?

Well according to this article in The Drum,  Facebook has done some fabulous logic-torturing research to prove that maybe it's actually better to target your advertising to people who don't click and don't engage because they're cheaper to reach.

The article, written by a "global digital director" guy, explains that...
"Any activity which sets out specifically to drive active engagement is by its very nature limiting itself to being attractive only to a small percentage of consumers..."
In case you're wondering what that bullshit means, it's that no one is interested in engaging with our ads or posts and we better come up with a new cover story pretty damn quick.

And what's the new story?

The new story is that the way online advertising works is, um, just like ol' fashioned, "traditional" advertising.
"There's a clear message that brand marketers may well be better off getting people to stare in awe at their creative marketing rather than trying to force them to click their way through it."
Stare in awe at a banner ad? At a Facebook post? Is this supposed to be funny? Has this guy totally lost touch with reality? Is it possible that he really believes this?

In the astounding logic of the digital world, the pitch for "interactive" advertising is now the fact that it is not really, um, interactive.

Author of the piece in question turns out to be a stand-up guy. See his comment below.

June 04, 2015

We Have Fallen In Love With Ourselves

There are two reasons the advertising industry is besotted with the web

The corporate fat boys love it because it came along at exactly the right time to provide an exciting new thing to sell, just as the agency business was losing its mojo.

The rank and file love it because it is quickly becoming the most advertising and marketing-controlled medium in history.

We -- the marketing industry -- are running the web. It is the first major medium that is completely under the thumb of advertisers and marketers.

We used to have some control over TV and radio. Our advertising choices about what to support with our clients' ad dollars influenced what programmers programmed. But we never had hands-on control of the actual content.

In radio and print media the same was true. We influenced the content with our buying, but we didn't control or create the content.

Radio, tv, or print was always a medium first, and then a marketing vehicle. The web is not. The web is quickly evolving into a marketing vehicle first, and, oh yeah, it's also a communication medium.

It is impossible to do anything on the web without being assaulted by marketing or advertising.

It was possible to watch 12 minutes of uninterrupted sitcom before a spot came on. You could sometimes listen to 5 songs in a row before you heard a radio spot. But not with the web.

You can't go 30 seconds on the web without being interrupted.

I have commented previously on how the web has similarities to a super-charged Yellow Pages. The Yellow Pages was a marketing gimmick masquerading as a medium. The web is becoming very much the same thing.

On the web, every move you make, every step you take, everything you watch or read is interrupted by advertising or marketing. We ad geeks love the web because we don’t just create the ads, we create the ocean they swim in. We've never before had this kind of power for our meager talents.

The web didn't start this way. But it is evolving into a non-stop, always-on marketing circus. It’s what makes it nauseating, and -- to us in the industry -- irresistible.

June 03, 2015

If You Can Read, You're Invited

Attention all Bay Area advertising, marketing and media people (and anyone else who's thirsty...)

A week from today, on Wednesday, June 10, between 5:00 and 6:30 PM, the nice people at WideOrbit will be hosting a signing party for my new book, Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey. 

They will be serving wine (I've heard rumors of an awesome wine cellar,) beer, cheese, fruit, and dessert. You don't have to buy a book, but if you do, the proceeds will be donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. (Hey, it's $5.25. Let's not get all sensitive here.)

Please stop by, bring a friend, and help me celebrate the publishing of my new book.

RSVP to lchang@wideorbit.com or call 415 675 6700. Space is limited, so rsvp asap.

Date: Wednesday, June 10th
Time: 5:00 - 6:30 PM
Place: WideOrbit, 1160 Battery Street (East Building, Suite 300) SF CA 94111
RSVP: lchang@wideorbit.com, or (415) 675-6700.

By the way, if you don't live in the Bay Area, it's not too late to move.

June 01, 2015

Suddenly, $13 Billion In Media Reviews. Coincidence?

For over ten years, the agency business has been the online advertising industry’s lapdog – irresponsibly exaggerating the effectiveness of social media marketing; camouflaging the abominable results of display advertising; and glossing over the fraud and corruption that have contaminated the web.

The web arrived just in time for agencies. Agency creative abilities were on the wane. Clients were questioning their strategic abilities. Consolidation had made them big, slow corporate behemoths. Margins were shrinking.

They needed something new and exciting to sell. The web was a godsend.

But the era of digi-cluelessness may be coming to an abrupt end. According to industry sources, over $13 billion in media billings are in review right now -- an unprecedented avalanche of client dissatisfaction.

According to Brian Wieser, chief analyst at Pivotal Group, 
“...the reviews announced in the last eight weeks alone amounts to $13 billion in annual media spending. This approaches amounts that might be awarded in a typical full year”
And one can't help but think that the ad industry's irresponsible pimping for the online industry is a contributing factor.

First, there's the kickback...oops, I mean "rebate"...scandal. 

Clients who've been asleep at the wheel for years are finding out that agencies have been buying online inventory with their money and passing the "rebates" on to themselves.

Then there's the issue of incompetence and/or fraud...oops, I mean "viewability"...in which 56% of online ads paid for by advertisers are never seen by a living human.

Then there's click fraud, and audience fraud...

The web is a cesspool of corruption and incompetence. Nobody knows what they're buying. Nobody knows what they're paying. Nobody knows what they're getting.

Agencies turned a blind eye. They bet big on it and have been fat and happy. But it could be that the winds are changing.

Is all this sudden review activity connected to the fraud, corruption, and mismanagement of online ad budgets?

Well, I can’t prove it, but let’s just say I don’t believe in coincidences.